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Trail Running Shoes • April 26, 2021

Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra Performance Review

What You Need To Know

  • Weighs 9 oz. (255 g) for a US M9.0
  • Combination Boost/Lightstrike midsole provides a perfect balance of cushion and responsiveness
  • Surprisingly exceptional Continental outsole grip with low-profile lugs
  • Seriously fun and badass shoe for ripping the trails

TAYLOR: I had never experienced an adidas Terrex shoe before now. Honestly, I’ve wanted to but have always been deterred. Anytime I asked around the local run community, the three stripes quickly turned into three strikes.

Those who commented obviously didn’t step foot in the new Terrex Speed Ultra. Now we’re talkin’ three strikes – bowling style in the tenth frame.  If this is the new standard for adidas Terrex going forward, I’ll keep coming back.

MATT: Adidas seemed to be the forgotten name amongst the mainstream brands when it came to the trail scene. I had previously seen ads for the Terrex line, but it really seemed to be an afterthought amongst much more deserving models. Based upon looks and reviews of the earlier models, they seemed like the trail shoe found on the shelf at the local Dicks or Sports Authority.

“Mom can I get the Speedgoat?”

“Oh sweetie, we already have a Terrex at home.”

Needless to say, when I caught wind of the new Terrex Speed Ultra I was quite intrigued to find out for myself what these were all about. Would it be more of the same from adidas, or would they throw their hat into the trail ring with a legit contender?

adidas terrex speed ultra - mud

The Good

TAYLOR: Where to start? Let’s start with the fact that it’s featherweight (for a trail shoe anyway) at only 9.7 ounces for a men’s 10.5? Or maybe I should elaborate on the Lightstrike and Adidas boost midsole combo? The secure fit? Solid upper? In case you can’t tell, there’s just a lot of good about the Terrex Speed Ultra.

Adidas has taken a more classic style of racing shoe and put its best foot forward in each of the departments. The Speed Ultra is more of a racing flat as opposed to some of the more rockered highly cushioned kicks in its category like the North Face Flight Vectiv, Inov-8 Terra Ultra G-270, and Skechers Razor TRL. Its sleek black and white design with a subtle pink stripe certainly hides some of its high-performance componentry from the eye, but not from the foot.

An 8 mm drop (26 mm in the heel/18 mm in the toe) sets the stage for this shoe’s versatility. Running roads will feel familiar to most and you will find some reprieve as you climb the steeps.

What really characterizes this shoe is the tasteful midsole recipe. Adidas Terrex really nailed it! The closest road comparison models would be something like the Adizero Pro or SL20. All of these shoes have a mixture of Boost and Lightstrike foams. First, the Lightstrike foam runs the length of the shoe, making up the whole forefoot while sharing space with adidas Boost compound in the midfoot and heel. Lightstrike is on the firm side (which I personally like) and offers some pretty stellar energy return because of that. There’s just the right amount of Lightstrike throughout the offer protection for the forefoot, responsiveness through the stride, all the while maintaining the ability to have some ground feel. What more do you want for a true racing shoe?

Boost is a saving grace in this recipe. At this point, it’s almost a legacy material in the road shoes, but this mix on trail is something different. It provides the element of cushion needed for the trail and it straight up bounces! As a midfoot striker, the strategically placed Boost in the heel and through the midfoot provided a very comfortable first contact for nearly every step on the trail. Transition was smoother than Fonzie on a Friday night, especially on smooth to moderate trails. That was a big surprise to me with a shoe that technically has a rocker but doesn’t really look or feel it like many of the aforementioned shoes in its class.

Fit plays a huge role in my love for this shoe. It’s one of the best fits you’ll find for the average foot. Even my average/wide foot was completely comfortable. A thin racing-style integrated tongue provides a nice initial hug for the foot to stay in place.

The surrounding engineered mesh upper is more form-fitting and doesn’t have much flex at all so it keeps its shape and holds the foot in place. In other words, it’s a more glove-like fit. It is very secure with no shifting or sliding to speak of and will be perfectly at home on technical terrain. At the same time, the forefoot is a little more accommodating than any other adidas shoe I have worn. So, there’s a little wiggle room, but not a lot. Some more on this later.

In hand, the engineered upper feels somewhat “plasticky” which would keep some away from this shoe. It does not feel that way on foot. The closest upper I can compare it to is a more breathable version of Topo Athletic’s abrasion-resistant mesh. It feels very light, pretty breathable, and is certainly backwoods certified in the durability and quick-drying departments.

Solid durability is extended to the Continental rubber outsole too. This outsole is gecko-like in the sense that it seems to defy itself. Like, how the heck does a full-blown lizard stick to a marble wall?! Check out their toes and they are deceivingly grippy based on appearance. Same goes for the outsole in the Speed Ultra. At first glance, there’s not much there – a mere 3 mm of a waffled outsole.

adidas terrex speed ultra - outsole

Where does all the grip come from?! The rubber is as tacky as a melted Laffy Taffy on a summer’s day, and that certainly helps with the grip. The other grip factor comes from the strategic pattern of the outsole. The Speed Ultra stayed steady over varied terrain including some mud, slushy snow, packed snow, wet rocks, dry dirt, and pavement. How do they achieve this without any true lugs? Well, the outsole rubber is modeled after a gravel bike’s tires. It’s actually pretty similar to a variety of HOKA outsoles. As the foot makes ground contact, the outsole creates more tension by compressing the materials together and making a more firm platform on push-off. Think about that one for a minute. It works! (Just not in deep mud.)

The whole package of the adidas Terrex Speed Ultra will be a great option for the smooth and fast and I’ll definitely be taking this shoe above treeline once it dries a bit.

MATT: Wow. Okay, adidas, I’m sorry for the things I said about you. Please send more Terrex Speed Ultras because I am going to run the rubber right off of these bad boys.

There is a lot to like about this shoe – like a whole lot. My size 10 came in a tad over 9 oz., and if it’s possible, they feel even lighter.
They also take a whole different approach to shape and style than what is trending in the trail market these days. The shoe looks and feels more like a racing flat/track shoe with its low, slender, and sleek design. If the trail scene is currently dominated by thick bois and flat bois, adidas is carving its own path here, delivering a racing shoe that’s cut more like a soccer cleat (Socc(er) Bois??).

This may be the most glove-like and locked-in fit in any trail shoe I’ve recently worn. The thin racing style tongue coupled with a stiff, yet breathable mesh upper, provides an all-around great ride.

What really stands out with this shoe is the layered midsole construction. Adidas ran Lightstrike foam across the entire length of the shoe, layering in a section of Boost foam from mid-foot to heel. The ride is the perfect combination of firmness and energy return. This is a zippy and fun ride, while still maintaining a feel for the trail.

Finally, let’s chat about the enigmatic outsole on the Terrex Speed Ultra. Continental rubber, with a “Flying V” Mighty Ducks style tread pattern covers the bottom of the shoe. The tread depth is quite minimal (2.5 mm) and anything but overly aggressive. So my concerns were that, while a great fitting and fast shoe, would it fail me as soon as the trails got technical or slick?

Nope. I bombed the descents with confidence, crossed streams, and puddle jumped from rock to rock with no issues. The combination of material and layout of the treads form a tacky and stable grip that honestly outperforms some of the shoes with lugs nearly twice the size.

This also means that minus the added bulk, this shoe makes great transitions from trail to road without feeling slow and clunky – an ideal shoe for road-to-trail-to-whatever races.

Shop adidas Terrex – Men Shop adidas Terrex – Women adidas terrex speed ultra - upper1

The Bad

TAYLOR: My following complaint list is more of a “beware” list. The adidas Terrex Speed Ultra is a very solid shoe. It is definitely more accommodating than any other adidas I have tried, but it will still hold a sweet spot for a certain type of runner.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. There are plenty of shoes that should have this asterisk.  This is slated as an ultra shoe and it can’t really escape that ego because, well … it’s part of the shoe’s name. I will say that yes, you certainly could hit a 50K worth of rough and tumble, even mountainous, trails with the Terrex Speed Ultras and come out the other side just fine. Elites can add some more distance onto that, but, in general, you’re probably going to want more shoe underfoot for the long days on your feet.  These are pretty racing flat-esque and I feel that the name is somewhat misleading.

Also, if you’re a heavy heel-pounder – beware! I am more of a midfoot-striker but I try to run some miles very intentionally striking closer to the heel. There’s not a ton of Boost back there to keep you rolling in that manner. The foot transition, when striking heel first, did seem much less smooth as the contrast of mainly Boost foam to only Lightstrike in the forefoot was pretty stark. The Speed Ultra’s are meant for faster paces and midfoot striking.

This last “complaint” is angled toward the upper. There are a lot of great qualities in this engineered mesh. Flex is not one of them. You pretty much get what you get after first step-in. There won’t be much widening or wiggle room as you run more miles. So, try these ones on first. Again, I was surprised to fit pretty comfortably in them myself. So, maybe you’ll be surprised too? Utilize Running Warehouse and their free 90-day returns.

MATT: The Good certainly outweighs the bad with this shoe, but if we are breaking things down top to bottom, there are a couple of considerations to be aware of.

Try the shoe on. If it fits out of the box then go hit the trails. If it takes vice grips and a stick of Body Glide to get your foot in, these aren’t for you, dog. The first couple runs I spent more time than a person should wiggling my feet into place. The downside of the locked-in fit I suppose. I imagine the addition of a heel strap to assist would help entry a bit and not impact the sleek styling.

If you know trail conditions are utter garbage, leave these on the rack and go with something else. That is not what the “racing” styling of the Terrex speed is built for. I can imagine hitting a mud pit at a high speed in these shoes may result in you coming out the other side in your socks.

Shop adidas Terrex – Men Shop adidas Terrex – Women adidas terrex speed ultra - both

Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra Conclusion

TAYLOR: Siri! Play “You’re the Best Around” by Joey Esposito. No one’s ever gonna keep the Terrex down. It’s hard to give a shoe an absolute “Best” award, but you will definitely feel like you’re the best while wearing these. The adidas Terrex Speed Ultra surprised me with its very secure fit, all around light feel, and high-end performance on a lot of fronts. This one will be playing tug-of-war with the best of them in the “racing” category of trail shoes. Heck, I’ll even throw these in my weekly mileage from time to time for faster days or just for an ego “boost.”

MATT: Adidas has reeled me in with this one. I don’t have the first-hand experience to understand how the design of this latest model improved so much from its predecessors. But I challenge any previous doubters to put some miles on this shoe and not come back with a smile on their face. I have a 50K coming up next Month where the terrain isn’t terribly technical and I am seriously considering the Terrex Speed Ultra as my race day shoe. I’ll be sure to come back and update my review post-race.

You can pick up the adidas Terrex Speed Ultra for $160 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.

Shop adidas Terrex – Men Shop adidas Terrex – Women

Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. randomdude says:

    For the bigfoots out there, I have them in US12.5 and they come in at 10.75 ounces.

    I love these because they handle roads like a road shoe, albeit firm, then once you hit a surface with a smidge of give, they feel beautiful. Wear a more cushioned sock and you’re good on anything. Well maybe not mud, but I think the new 190 has a deeper lug for that…

  2. James says:

    I agree with this review 100%. I happened to find a great sale on them and I’m glad I pulled the trigger. They are my go-to off pavement shoe. I like that it CAN handle wet/slippery/muddy, but the lugs aren’t so aggressive that they become an annoyance while running.
    It fits very comfortably, the shoes seem to handle 10+ mile runs really well and they don’t feel super heavy or slowing me down. And the

    I had a very enjoyable afternoon ripping down Barr Trail with these 🙂

    If you ever find these on clearance somewhere, I’d highly recommend them.

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